ROSS PEROT'S off-again, on-again presidential campaign reminds some old-timers around here of the lyrical refrain from a poem by Strickland Gillilan, The Evening Sun's very first editorial page columnist:
Off agin, on agin,
Gone agin. -- Finnigin
These closing lines are more memorable than the poem itself, which was written in what can only be described as a heavy Irish dialect. Entitled "Finnigin to Flannigan," the poem recounts the story of Finnigin, a railroad section chief whose more-educated boss, Flannigan, had berated him for writing overly wordy reports.
(The full text of the poem can be found in Burton Egbert Stevenson's "Home Book of Verse," under the section headed "Sons of the Emerald Isle.")
After the reprimand, Finnigin and his men were called upon to set right a derailed train.
They did so, and Finnigin stayed up all night, boiling down his report to "Off again, on again . . . "
The poet doesn't tell us whether Flannigan was pleased with Finnigin's work. But we suspect that with such a gift for gab, Finnigin soon reverted to his wordier ways.
Why do we think so? We've seen the same syndrome in too many journalists -- not to mention presidential candidates.